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How Do Businesses Survive Cut-Throat Competition?

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Sometimes there are more questions than answers. I once went to a meeting with an important partner to negotiate a deal; we discussed the benefits for both parties and agreed on the value proposition. Still, when it came to pricing, objectivity and rationality were placed on hold, because my product was “insurance”. It was to be priced like a commodity with “no cost of sale”.

In his words, “if you do not agree, I will call another insurance company and tell them to beat your price, then call another insurance company to beat the last price…the industry is racing downwards, and we would help them”. The story ended well because we had built a reputable record of service delivery; there’s always a place for relationship management in business. The experience left me with a lot to ponder on. The critical question being, how do businesses survive cut-throat competition? 

I do not have scientific research to back up my recommendations, but they come from a place of practical experience.

Businesses are similar to biological forms. In the words of Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent but the one most responsive to change”.

At this point, I would like to define cut-throat competition as a type of competition that defies regular market practices. Here pricing is not subject to the laws of demand and supply, cost of production etc., instead it is focused on driving revenue as a means of survival for a large number of players in the industry. 

Until the situation normalizes, it is crucial to treat your business like a portfolio, where you have clear investment objectives with different scenarios and expected returns. This implies that in some scenarios you break even and in others you make calculated losses (this should be very minimal with salient benefits such as gaining or retaining market share), or you make a good profit. If done well, the result should be an upward trajectory for your business.

In treating your business like a portfolio, you need to do the following:

  • Know your Customer and Know your Market: If your service or product is seen as a non-essential by your target market, the bargaining power of the purchaser is amplified, pitching organizations against each other as they fight for a share of the customer’s wallet. In a situation like this, you have to tailor your solutions to what the customer needs. This would involve market research, customer engagement, and hypothesis testing, as well as other data capturing techniques.
  • Know your Cost Price: For people in manufacturing, logistics, trading etc., this could be very easy, but it gets difficult as we move towards the service industry. Some service companies need adequate data and actuarial inputs to determine their cost price. Once this is acquired, you can then make informed decisions about price structure and determine the contribution margin.
  • Create your Niche. Innovate: There is a saying that goes thus, “It is foolish to keep doing the same thing but expect a different result”. You need to build unique capabilities to set your business aside from the pack. No matter how crowded a place is, there are still people that would stand out. I say this often, “There is no saturation in differentiation”. Differentiation gives you an advantage not just in pricing but in customer acquisition, sustainability etc.
  • Drive Efficiency and Build Scale: There are several ways to achieve this. Some include building optimal processes, reviewing your distribution approach, re-designing your operating model, man-power enhancement and optimization, cost management, utilizing technology as an enabler, building partnerships, leveraging on platforms etc.

Also Read: How Tech Is Enhancing Recruitment: An Interview With Sandy Simagwali, Co-Founder Of Graft Africa

  • Product Optimization: This may involve creating varied versions of the same product. It may be a “no-frills” version of your solution or bundling your solution with a variety of complementary solutions. Product optimization should be a product of customer and market interaction.
  • Stakeholder Engagement: The players in the industry can come together to decide fair pricing. This typically works better in a regulated industry. The regulator is empowered to set a minimum price for the industry, which would be more favourable to new entrants and fringe players. The decisions of these regulators often lead to mergers, acquisitions, etc. within the industry.
  • Compete: This involves the use of all capital, emotional, technical, relational, intuitive, network, and physical leverage within ethical and legal confines you may have at your disposal to put you ahead.

By: Oladele Akinsanya

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Investment

ILLA, an African asset-light FMCG Logistics Company Raises $2M Investment Round

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ILLA Team (Image: Supplied)

Cairo-based FMCG Logistics company ILLA secures a $2M investment round to boost its growth in the market and diversify its offering to the FMCG value chain. The round was co-led by Watheeq Financial Services and Golden Palm Investments. The round saw participation from Loftyinc Capital Management, Kepple Africa Fund, Cubit Ventures, AUC Angels, Oqal Angel Network and FLat6Labs Cairo doubling down on its investment in ILLA for the third time

Founded in 2019 by Mahmoud Elzomor, Alaa Jarkas, Ahmed Sakr, and Hossam Saraya, and shortly joined by a well versed management team with Mohamed Emera as Director of Growth, Mohamed Kamal as CFO, and Khaled Elzomor as Commercial Director ILLA aims to optimize post-production supply chain activities for FMCG brands, starting with middle-mile delivery services, being the most fragmented part of the value chain.

By focusing exclusively on the FMCG market, ILLA was able to capture the business and trust of over 65 clients in its portfolio, with household names to the likes of Coca-Cola, P&G, Danone, Nestle, Juhayna, and Pepsico.

Since 2019, ILLA has been delivering on its core promise of moving goods with efficiency on behalf of FMCG brands, spanning over 5,000,000 KM and completing over 250,000
transactions, across 27 governorates in Egypt leveraging its tech platform to power delivery
operations

Before ILLA, FMCG brands had to rely on a variety of owned and outsourced assets to manage their delivery operations, and that adds to the pain of a fragmented logistics cycle, which gave way to the value offering of ILLA to those brands; a streamlined value chain with visibility, control and growth potential for each individual brand, with ILLA acting as an asset-light logistics  company, leveraging its tech platform and operational intelligence to deliver an unparalleled experience to FMCG brands.

“ILLA will use the funds to fuel its expansion and growth in Egypt and disrupt the traditional route to-market for FMCG companies and SMEs, while building more around its tech platform to deliver more value to its clients and drivers alike”, says Mahmoud ElZomor, Co-Founder and CEO of ILLA

“Mahmoud and the team are tailor-made for ILLA, bringing decades of diversified experience to help drive efficiency into the $15 trillion global FMCG market. With the onset of covid, the global supply chain management industry is suitable for modernization, and ILLA is uniquely positioned as an end-to-end execution platform. In addition, ILLA’s smart logistics solutions also play a crucial role in providing a full stack of operational solutions that will disrupt the sector, and will change the behavior for all stakeholders within the FMCG market,” said Khaled Zaidan of Watheeq Financial Services.

“Middle-mile logistics is one of the most underinvested segments of the global supply chain market. ILLA has identified this massive opportunity in MENA and is offering a full-stack B2B supply chain management platform enabling FMCG brands to reach retailers directly at the lowest cost per case. Mahmoud and team are utilizing the trucking logistics shared economy and tech automation to innovate within a large and fast-growing market.”AJ Okereke, Partner, Golden Palm

 

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Press Release

Africa’s CEOs to empower youth for the digital age at the All4Youth Regional Alliance flagship event

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All4Youth Regional Alliance Senior leaders (Image: All4Youth SSA)

We aim to support 1 million young people to find work and plan their transition to the digital economy between now and 2022 through a flagship event of All4Youth Regional Alliance, “CEO & Youth Connect”. A collaborative intervention led by various multinational companies dedicated to reduce youth unemployment across Sub-Saharan Africa. Senior leaders from the alliance will meet on November 8, 2021, to discuss skills of the future required in their organizations as well as share programs, training, and initiatives designed to prepare youth for the digital era. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an economic crisis, forcing tens of millions of people out of work. As economies continue with the reopening journey, some jobs may not come back, yet we continue to see a rise in the number of youth joining the job market. “We have therefore put the best of our resources to support this recovery, including using data to understand the most in-demand roles, supporting with skilling and reskilling needs for job seekers and job creators. Partnerships such as this will play a critical role and will support us to scale us to more youth and increase the impact across the African continent” noted Ghada Khalifa, Director for Microsoft Philanthropies for Middle East and Africa.

Bruno Olierhoek, Chairman and Managing Director at Nestlé East and Southern Africa Region emphasized the importance of senior leaders taking keen interests in the development and ultimate successes of the youth.  “We are driven by our inspiring purpose that is so relevant in our East and Southern Africa Region (ESAR) and we want to do good by addressing societal challenges such as climate change, sustainability and youth unemployment. To help contribute to these major challenges, we realize the need to work in an ecosystem which is entrenched around long-term thinking, with immediate actions. Through our involvement in different programmes supporting the youth in Employment & Employability, Entrepreneurship and Agri-preneurship we are committed to continuously define projects that are fully integrated in our value chain for them to be viable over the long term and be able to make a real meaningful impact for the community and us.”

“The youth of today are the builders and leaders of tomorrow. As Adcorp we know that enabling agility, focus and skill in the youth of today is the key to unlocking their potential for tomorrow ‘’ highlighted Dr John Wentzel, Chief Executive Officer, Adcorp Group. 

In the last two years, alliance partners have reached over 150,000 young people, empowered over 3000 young people through employability and mentorship programmes.  Giving high potential young talent access to a network of high performing industry professionals that accelerate opportunities, career and personal development goals.

We encourage young people to register for the upcoming event to click here and learn more about in-demand skills, insights to future of work and opportunities alliance partners have available for youth. 

 

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Investment

Fawry Invest in Sudanese Classifieds and Marketplace Platform alsoug, Marking First Overseas Venture

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 Fawry CEO Eng. Ashraf Sabry (Image: Supplied)

Fawry establishes strategic partnership with Sudanese consumer platform with an eye to scaling up technology platform beyond Egypt.

Fawry (the “Company”, FWRY.CA on the Egyptian Exchange), Egypt’s leading provider of e- payments solutions and digital banking services, announced today that it has finalized an investment in alsoug.com, Sudan’s largest online classifieds platform and marketplace, to help build out alsoug’s new fintech platform, Cashi. Fawry has acquired a strategic minority stake in the alsoug.com/Cashi holding company, marking the Company’s first venture capital investment outside of its Egyptian home market. The investment comes as part of Sudan’s first announced venture capital funding round.

Fawry played a leading role in ensuring the success of the USD 5m round, with the Company’s presence catalyzing involvement from other strategic Western VC players. As a strategic investor in alsoug, Fawry intends to leverage its long track record with white label technology solutions to help the platform expand in scale, enhancing the platform’s merchant acquisition operation, refining its go-to-market approach, and providing valuable insights that inform high-level strategy across all segments of the business.

Founded in 2016 by a world-class team of technology entrepreneurs, alsoug is now Sudan’s leading consumer internet platform and its largest digital marketplace. Alsoug is one of Sudan’s most downloaded apps on the Google Play app store with two million downloads and is a platform where sellers can list everything from real estate and cars to services and commodities.

Despite the political and economic headwinds experienced by Sudan as it goes through a transformative political transition, the platform has grown rapidly since 2016, reflecting alsoug’s highly skilled team of in-house developers, comprehensive coverage by its on-the-ground teams, as well as Sudan’s promising economic fundamentals. Moving forward, and building on the strategic partnership with Fawry, alsoug will significantly expand its service offering by building a new payments network capable of serving customers across Sudan, one of the largest countries on the African continent.

“We’re delighted to be kicking off our partnership with alsoug, one of Sudan’s most exciting prospects and a Sudanese leader in tech innovation. This is our first investment foray outside of Egypt in our thirteen years of operation, and we’re confident that our story with alsoug and Cashi will be a special one. Fawry’s investment in alsoug delivers on our plans to venture into underserved international markets by leveraging our technology and teaming up with strong local players. This investment will provide us the opportunity to strategically expand our footprint into Africa and transfer the experience we’ve gained in the dynamic Egyptian market to neighboring Sudan, an economy with major potential across several sectors and with a significant pool of entrepreneurial talent. Meanwhile, Fawry’s strategic partnership with alsoug leaves it ideally placed to help guide the platform’s rollout of a countrywide payments system, a feat which Fawry has already managed through a scalable, robust, and best-in-class technology platform.” said: Fawry CEO Eng. Ashraf Sabry

“This investment marks a significant milestone not just for alsoug, but for the nascent tech space in Sudan as a whole, which has until today been essentially shut out of the global capital markets. I hope this investment is the first of many and that the huge potential of the tech sector in Sudan is fully realized in the coming years. We are looking forward to working with Fawry, and our new strategic shareholders, to continue our expansion from the classifieds and marketplace space into payments. We will build a payments platform that will deliver financial inclusion to all Sudanese.” said Alsoug co-founder and CEO Tarneem (Nina) Saeed

 

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